History enthusiasts head to Guangzhou, Guangdong Province's ancient capital and the historic center of Cantonese culture. Gourmands flock to both Guangzhou and Shenzhen to indulge in some of the best examples of contemporary Chinese cuisine. Culture vultures take in the many temples, shrines, and museums scattered throughout the region. A visit to the Pearl River delta will quickly dismiss any lingering notions that China is still a nation bound by the tenets of Marx and Mao.
The hardworking Pearl River delta is one of China's fastest-growing and most affluent regions. With a GDP that rivals that of Saudi Arabia, Guangdong Province has been the industrial engine powering China's meteoric economic rise. All those factories, however, have turned it into one of China’s more polluted areas. From the southern suburbs of Guangzhou city to the northern edge of Shenzhen, industry stretches in all directions. Tens of thousands of factories churn out the lion's share of the world's consumer products. This hyper-industry has polluted the entire area's soil, water, and air so badly that clear skies are hard to come by.
As municipal governments struggle to upgrade the quality of life for residents and visitors, pollution levels are slowly improving, as some factories are being shuttered or moved inland. Guangzhou's clean and efficient subway system continues to expand year after year. In Shenzhen, the subway system doubled in size at the end of 2011, and several new lines are under construction.